Concert Review: The Lumineers at SaskTel Centre
I had known about this concert for months as my friend and I had been toying with the idea of attending together, but I was hesitant to purchase a ticket. I'd somehow managed to have never paid to see an arena concert before this and wasn't sure I wanted to start now. I've been to a few through tickets I'd been given, but always felt like they're too impersonal for the ticket price. At the risk of sounding like a cooler-than-you scene kid from 2005, I prefer intimate venues with an open floor and room to dance.
Two nights before The Lumineers were set to arrive in Saskatoon, however, Whitney and I logged onto TicketMaster to see what was left for tickets. We had the choice between paying $50 a piece for nosebleeds or an extra $40 to be down in the pit in front of the stage. Though neither of us had been huge followers of the band we decided to splurge a bit and forgo the need for binoculars to see the show.
We arrived on the floor just as Susto was warming things up. The alt-country group of 4 men and a bad-ass female bassist from the American South filled the arena with colourful melodies and intriguing lyrics as attendees ordered drinks and made their way to their seats. The catchy tunes had me tapping my feet but as it was early in the night there was little engagement from the rest of SaskTel Centre.
The arena roared as Icelandic 4-piece Kaleo took the stage and the atmosphere picked up a bit. Fans sang along to familiar blues-rock favourites like Way Down We Go and it was bassist Daniel Kristjansson who brought energy to the stage with his slick dance moves as he engaged with the audience having us dance and clap along.
As Kaleo waved goodbye we snuck through the growing crowd on the floor and claimed centre stage spots for the main event. Anticipation grew as lights and sounds began to emerge from behind the black curtain surrounding the stage. With a loud eruption of cheers the curtain dropped to reveal a gorgeous set including 7 LED chandeliers and front-man Wesley Schultz on the upright piano. He made the move to centre stage with his guitar and quickly got the whole arena on their feet as the Denver natives opened things up with a tribute to their humble beginnings with Flowers in Your Hair.
The 6-person touring ensemble easily occupied the large stage as they moved between instruments and interacted with the crowd. Pianist Stelth Ulvang was a personal favourite as he danced around stage barefoot losing his jacket and tie as he went. Schultz managed to convert the 8,000 person arena audience into an intimate house concert as he prefaced songs with personal anecdotes including memories of his fathers death from cancer 10 years ago.
After a handful of songs including fan favourite Ho Hey the group transferred to a stage in the centre of the arena. Though those surrounding me in the pit were unpleased that their front row efforts were no longer advantageous, the rest of the audience went wild. The band took this opportunity to strip things down a bit with songs like Classy Girls and anti-war ballad Charlie Boy. Some might argue that they had a bit of an agenda with that last one, but the crowd wasn't complaining and ate up every bit.
Back on the main stage, The Lumineers seamlessly transitioned between fast and slow songs with the climax of the show hinging on their passionate performance of Ophelia. The band was earnest and grateful throughout, Shultz mentioning their excitement coming to a new city for the first time and receiving such a warm welcome. As the set came to a close and house lights came up band members waved goodbye to their satisfied fans and tossed out picks, drumsticks, set lists, and bits of a broken tambourine to the front rows.
I doubt a single person left SaskTel Centre unpleased and I enjoyed browsing the Instagram and Snap-Stories of enthusiastic friends from different spots throughout the arena. Though I definitely appreciated my front row spot, I'm sure I would have had an enjoyable night wherever I was seated. The Lumineers might have surpassed my expectations on arena concerts but I'm still nervous to believe every band can do the job as well as they did.